Back in PAFA’s studios as Visiting Critic, a conversation with Jonathan Lyndon Chase (MFA '16)

In the last few years, Jonathan Lyndon Chase (MFA ‘16) has been all over the world, showcasing their work in London, New York, Switzerland, China, and more. But one of their favorite places to be is in Philadelphia visiting student studios as a Visiting Critic at PAFA.

“It really is a privilege to be in such close quarters with someone in that way. It’s an intimate setting and a treat to be in someone’s space, their studio, and see the things they’re thinking about and mulling over.” 

The Visiting Critics Program is a highlight of PAFA’s graduate programs. Distinguished artists visit campus multiple times each semester for one-on-one critiques with students about the work and art practice. The multiple visits allows students and their critics to see work develop over a longer period of time than a one-time critique. Other artists in the Visiting Critics Program have included Colleen Asper, Charles Burwell, Vincent Desiderio, Titus Kaphar, Virgil Marti, Mika Tajima and more.

A PAFA graduate themselves, Chase knows the influence a critic can have on a student. They still remember the experience of having a critique with Abigail DeVille when the New York-based artist was a visiting critic during Chase’s first year in the MFA program. 

And Chase hopes to impact the students they meet with as much as DeVille had an impact on them.

“It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come back. I believe diversity with action is super important, so I'm hoping that I'm able to continue to challenge people, show them different ideas just by my experience. To be in the position of someone like Abigail and some of the other great professors and critics I had and knowing how they made my experience feel, I want to be able to come back and do that for my community.” 

So when Chase steps into a student’s studio they strive for a casual down-to-earth atmosphere. It’s about having an open discussion and meeting a student where they are and learning about their goals. They often bring lists of artists a student should check out and encourage them to get out of the studio and check out more gallery shows and museum exhibitions. Chase says we are in the middle of a renaissance for Black and queer art, and wants students to expand their views. 

“One of the things I think is super important for young artists is to be super exposed to so many different types of artists. Unfortunately, a lot of queer artists, people of color, Black people are often left out or there are a few go-to’s that are always mentioned or included and it becomes run of the mill.” 

Chase wants to see PAFA students exposing themselves to as many artists and ideas as possible. Even if an artist doesn’t interest a student. 

Actually, Chase encourages them to check out work from those artists even more. 

“Even if at first glance, the work or artist doesn't seem like it might relate to you, there's always going to be something. Something that’s going to turn your gears, turn your head, and you're going to see the different connections that you didn’t maybe see at face value.” 

Over the course of the semester, Chase is seeing how students are taking in their environment and pushing themselves to experiment. From painting to sculpture, to multidisciplinary work, Chase loves seeing students make the most of their school experiences and take risks and be messy. 

It reminds them of their own experiences at PAFA. While a student at Delaware Valley Charter High School, Chase took life drawing and oil-painting classes with Al Gury as part of PAFA’s After-School Studio Arts Program for High School Students and then returned to PAFA for the MFA program in 2014.

“I really find it an honor to come back to my PAFA family and see what all of the faculty and students are doing,” Chase said. “A place like PAFA has such a intimate group of faculty members and students, which is something I really like. You're not in a really, really big campus where there’s so many people and you're saying, ‘Who's that?’”

Seeing what is going on in the PAFA community is part of what brings Chase back to campus. The influence goes both ways during critiques and Chase says they always find inspiration and new things to incorporate into their own ideas and practice. 

When Chase’s work is being shown across the globe, there might be a little piece of PAFA traveling with it.


About PAFA Graduate Programs

A low student-to-faculty ratio and individualized mentorship are the PAFA trademark. Graduate programs at PAFA are not bound by the conventions and traditions of academic and technical systems but informed by them, engaging in a critical framework that strives for authenticity and open discourse. All PAFA college programs are rolling admissions. Learn more about the Masters of Fine Art, Low-Residency MFA, and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate. 

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.